Around 450 million people currently suffer from mental health issues around the world, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. Stress, depression and anxiety account for 57 percent of all working days lost in the UK due to ill health.
Subsequently, an increasing number of businesses are placing the issue higher up on their corporate agenda – and rightly so.
But many struggle to embed true cultural change, resorting to baby steps; simple ‘posters on the wall’ or social posts on Mental Health Awareness Day. If employers do have initiatives in place, the absence of regular and clear signposting, or initiatives that ladder up to a clear mental health policy or framework, means that employees don’t actually know what support services are available, how they can help, or where to access them.
Employees are not getting the support they need. So, what can businesses do to ensure their efforts go beyond the poster on the wall to create meaningful and important change?
Develop a clear picture of the mental health of your workplace
This is the first step to understanding how well you are supporting your employees. This will help you work out whether your current approach is effective, identify your employees’ needs from the business, and define where you can improve. It’s crucial here to understand cultural blockers that get in the way of speaking up about mental health.
Design an employee health and wellbeing strategy
Don’t implement initiatives in an ad-hoc way. Talk to your people; undertake regular benchmarking and use the findings to tailor the support that you offer and develop a cohesive health and wellbeing strategy.
Set clear objectives, where to prioritise interventions and activity, and determine how effectiveness will be measured.
Communicate your strategy to employees
The visibility of your wellbeing strategy is important. What resources and support are available? Consider different ways to do this: a townhall with the CEO, or guest speaker sessions with mental health partners. Often, speaking up about mental health is the hardest step. Real success comes from leaders being prepared to open up personally, starting a dialogue that encourages the wider business.
Incorporate mental health into the day-to-day
The conversation shouldn’t stop once you launch your strategy. It needs to be thought out and communicated about more than once or twice a year. Focus your mental health support efforts on reaching and educating all employees. From interview through to exit, there are multiple touchpoints in your employees’ journey to check in on mental health, and offer support where needed. The more you can do to foster a culture where employees know that mental health matters, whether or not they are personally dealing with an issue, the more change you can affect.
Measure and review
You’ve identified where your employees are, created and launched your strategy, but how do you know if it’s having an impact? A regular review of your data and KPIs, set against your original benchmark, will help you determine whether you are on track. And if something is not working – be it an initiative or campaign – try to find out why, and what can be done to improve it.
Mental health problems aren’t reserved for an awareness week or day. Conversations around its issues shouldn’t be either. With the right culture and available support, it’s time that we spoke about mental health more confidently, more openly, and with more regularity, turning awareness into action, and your business into somewhere that people feel happy and supported.
By Lauren Hepburn
Lauren is an Employee Experience Consultant, and a firm believer in the power of strategic and creative storytelling to deliver meaningful results. When she’s not walking her dogs across the Cotswolds or enjoying art and painting, Lauren works with clients to craft and deliver culture change projects and compelling internal communications initiatives.